Let's Make Some Magic - Women in STEAM


I’m a 26 year old astrophysics grad student at UC Berkeley. I study exploding stars (supernovae) and cosmology (the science of the Universe). I grew up in Austin, TX, and fell in love with the sky at a really young age. From that point on, I always knew I wanted to be an astronomer! I have about 3 years left in my Ph.D. program. 

When not doing astrophysics, I focus my efforts on advocating for women's health. I got genetic testing when my dad was diagnosed with Stage 4 prostate cancer, and learned that I’m BRCA2 positive, which puts me at high risk for breast cancer (87%), ovarian cancer (30%), and several other cancers (e.g. pancreatic and melanoma). To lower my risk of breast cancer, I recently had a preventative double mastectomy with immediate reconstruction. I’ll get my ovaries removed in my 30s to lower my risk for ovarian cancer. 

I’m extremely passionate about advocating for women’s health, as well as science communication in general. I talk a lot about stars, space, supernovae, breast cancer, and women's health...a fun mix ;).

In my free time, I enjoy hiking and backpacking and playing with my dog, Comet. We love exploring California and the Pacific Northwest.

EB: It's been so eye-opening for us to follow along with your BRCA2 journey. You are bringing awareness to some issues that no one talks about. What would you say to other people struggling with the choices you've had to make?

Sarafina: First of all, thank you so much :). It’s something I’m really passionate about. I think the most important message I can share is that Knowledge Is Power. Getting genetic testing was scary, and it’s a heavy burden to know that I carry a genetic mutation, but I feel so lucky because I have the opportunity to be preventative and proactive with my health! My hope is that I never have to face cancer because I’m able to be mindful and make decisions that drastically lower my risk. You’re the same person going into genetic testing that you are coming out; the only difference is that you’re now armed with knowledge to protect yourself. 

My decision to get a preventative mastectomy felt really empowering for me. I got to lower my risk to lower than the general population! That’s AMAZING! I feel grateful for the opportunity to be able to reduce my risk. I want to encourage other people to face their health because it only empowers them, opening doors to get to know your body and yourself.

EB: How did you get involved with Evelyn & Bobbie?

Sarafina: When I was first recovering from my mastectomy I was researching like crazy, looking for brands that offer amazing options for women post-breast surgery. I wanted to find something inclusive, that values all women’s bodies and stories. When I found EB, I was thrilled!!!

EB: Tell us what your experience has been like wearing EB products.

Sarafina: AMAZING! Truly amazing. I live in my Defy bra, especially right after surgery. It’s so soft, and the fact that it’s seamless makes it really comfortable on sensitive skin (skin is really sensitive after breast surgery as nerves regenerate) and incision areas. It makes me feel comfortable and confident in my body, which has been a journey in itself after surgery.

EB: How did shooting in your EB bra make you feel?

Sarafina: Powerful. Confident. Sexy. Happy in my body.

EB: Congratulations on your Super nova find! Tell us about that experience. 

Sarafina: THANK YOU! I’m so excited! I actually was looking for a particular type of supernova-- the type that occurs when two stars collide and one (or both) explode. When I got the data, I found another supernova almost directly on top of the one we’d expected to find. The surprise supernova had exploded just a few days before we got our data (keep in mind that the star is many light years away, so we’re looking back in time-- the star really exploded many thousands of years ago). It was so amazing to discover and observe a supernova that just exploded! My favorite moment in astronomy so far!

EB: Why is it important to you to wear comfortable bras and undies?

Sarafina: I’m especially sensitive to how my body feels after surgery. It’s already gone through so much trauma-- i want it to be treated with respect and comfort. I’m so careful about what I put in my body and what I wear.

EB: Where can our readers go to learn more about you?

Sarafina: I’m very active on Twitter and Instagram @starstrickenSF. You can also check out my website: www.starafina.com.

I just published a Guide to Breast Surgery on the site, and am excited to share it with folks! 


MORE WOMEN IN STEAM THAT INSPIRE US 

ALPA DAVE
Senior User Research Manager

"I love my Evelyn & Bobbie bras! Glad that my husband found an advertisement for them in an airline magazine, and ordered some right from the flight (who does that?) I cannot be more happy with them. They are all I wear now. They are comfortable and supportive. I no longer rush to take off my bra when I come home from work. I find they do a good job of coverage and are easy to slip on and off. I loved my first one so much, I've bought two more and plan to buy some more."

CHELLE SZURGOT
Astrophysicist Student & Research Assistant

"I am a lot of things; a student, a NASA researcher, a teacher, and a woman in STEM. It should come as no shock that being a woman in STEM comes with a whole lot of baggage in its own right. When I take up space in this place that--let's face it--is not meant for me, its immensely helpful if I'm comfortable while doing so. It may seem silly but having exceptionally comfy panties and bras help give me the confidence to shamelessly take up space. Both the space here on Earth and beyond!"